Well. The epicness of the OYAN workshop may be long past now, but the adventure lives on. The journey isn't over. Not even close. We're still fighting the battle, we're still living the dream, we're still gasping for air at every turn. Though we all must be wrenched apart by time and distance, we're closer now than ever. We've formed a bond that is truly unbreakable. A bond of love. A bond that'll never snap because of how strong that love is. And here's why.
The workshop left me stunned and awestruck and amazed and so many other feelings that I can't even begin to describe. In short, I was changed. Completely and beautifully changed. God taught me many things throughout that week. He strengthened my ability to love, He showed me that I COULD still love, even after all the bad things that had happened in my life. He gave me hope for the future, a strong hope that I cling to even now. Best of all, He offered me a glimpse of what I truly believe heaven is going to look like. Surrounded by the ones you love each and every day, for all eternity, having a shared love for Christ and for writing and for music that glorifies God's precious name. God lavished grace upon me that week, even through the struggles that I faced, even when I felt alone. Because every time bad feelings arose, every time I started leaning towards self-doubt and self-pity, there was ALWAYS somebody there to comfort me and lift me up. Always someone near to me who understood my feelings and who would give me a hug right at the very moment I needed one.
From the beauty of the critique groups and the wonder of the lectures down to the amazing fellowship I shared with OYANers--people like me--I felt truly blessed. And there was no reason to feel alone in the slightest because at the workshop, God blessed me with the ability to be myself. To not hide my opinion. To act random and crazy and not feel ashamed for it. To dress up in costumes and watch OTHER people dress up in even wilder costumes, and feel like it was the most normal thing on earth. To have long, nerdy conversations about Doctor Who and LOTR and Chopin and other random fandoms and then geek out together about said subjects. To have silly conversations that included My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Russian accents, Fluffnarks, converse, silence marks, lemurs-turned-penguin, the Land of Ood, telepathic mind powers, hats, elf ears, and glomps, and know that such things were not weird to talk about around insane writers. To snap pictures and not feel embarrassed to do strange things in said pics... Well, okay. Maybe I felt a LITTLE embarrassed. :P To laugh and cry on the last day of the workshop when we all gathered around outside of the gym and prayed, and not feel ashamed to cry my heart out in front of so many people because of God's overwhelming grace and love. To sing Amazing Grace at the end of our tearful prayers and look up into the sky, toward the heavens, at all of the twinkling stars above, singing out the words and praising God for the beautiful week that now stood behind us.
Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of the Summer Workshop. Thank you for Mr. and Mrs. S, who have made all of this possible. Thank you for all of the speakers--Jeff Gerke, Mark Wilson, Mark Twain, Daniel Schwabauer, and yes, Carrol Schwabauer--who inspired us and who are leading us into victory through the words they shared with us. Thank you for my second family. Thank you for overwhelming me with peace and love. Thank you for showering me with mercy and your infinite goodness.
Thank you for the gift of writing.